Former North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol often referred to Kim Jong Un as a “young person," and made other remarks that factored into the North Korea's leader's decision to eliminate Hyon. Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
SEOUL, July 29 (UPI) -- Former North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol was executed for making disparaging remarks about Kim Jong Un, and the North Korean leader poses a greater threat than his father to South Korea, an analyst said Wednesday.
Chung Sung-jang, a researcher at South Korea's Sejong Institute said intelligence gathered from a defector indicated the purged Hyon often referred to Kim as a "young person," Yonhap reported.
Hyon also held several other grievances toward Kim and had criticized him for neglecting his duties, according to a Seoul spy agency report in May.
Hyon's complaints eventually reached Kim, and they factored into the North Korean leader's decision to eliminate his defense minister.
But Kim's purge of Hyon was not an impromptu gesture that emerged from a personal vendetta, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.
According to Chung's analysis, Hyon's execution is part of Kim's larger strategy of reducing a bloated military elite, a plan that includes the ongoing personnel changes and demotions taking place within the elite ranks of North Korea's military.
There are signs, however, other government offices remain relatively stable, Chung said.
Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff Ri Yong Gil has "safely maintained his position" since August 2013, the analyst said, and no high-ranking officer at Pyongyang's national security apparatus has been rotated out.
Among the core military elite, only Hyon's execution is confirmed, but executions employ cruel methods, Chung said.
"It would be realistic to see Kim Jong Un as more threatening than [his father,] Kim Jong Il," Chung said.
In May, sources in North Korea said Hyon may have been executed with anti-aircraft machine guns, a few days after he was last seen in public in late April.